ONE of the best ways to spend a day in our childhood was to go out to the Back Beach. Unimpeded by adults, we would set off from the end of Broome Crescent, across the paddocks to the Rifle Range gate. We crossed the undulations in these paddocks made for market gardening during the war.
Any other time we would be re-enacting things seen at the Saturday arvo flicks (These would involve inching along the furrows, whooping, shooting from cover, playing cowboys and Indians.) but now we had a different agenda – the beach. We cut across more paddocks, skirted tannin-stained swamps, hunted for Wonthaggi Monster tracks, passed the Southern Tunnel airshafts, skirted Lake Lister, breasted the dunes – Bass Strait, here we come!
Back at the Rifle Range gate, we headed north, winding along the track used by miners over the decades to get to the Rifle Range, or the beach or Lake Lister to fish. This was a favoured track as we reached the big sandhill. Here we could collect orchids in season or a bunch of heath but also a spray of gum tips for Mum.
This section today is our missing link.
The winding track on the road reserve has been swallowed up. This is a vital link. If you left the Wonthaggi shopping centre via the Rail Trail, you could exit near the Rescue Station and go via Five Brace and the Tent Town site southwards across West Area Road to enter the mining precinct or Campbell Street bush. A track leads to Campbell Street opposite Old Rifle Range Road. Continuing south, it comes to our high sandhill (now houses) and looks towards the Rifle Range gate … but it is now impeded by two fences across the road reserve.
From the gate you can proceed by a red-stone track through the revegetated Rifle Range, past the butts with its great lookout and on to sandy tracks into the Wonthaggi Heathland.
Further south you pass the dam, reach Harmers Haven and can follow the beach at low tide to Cape Paterson. This latter part passes the site where Hovell found back coal in 1827, where a mine operated in 1841, where the Truginini story unfolded, where a rail line went to Cape Paterson.
This is an area full of Wonthaggi and mining history, an aspirational track, a link of the present to the past,
Oh for this tiny missing link from the big sand dune.